Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Interview with Valery Fedorenko

There is this excitement churning inside me as I patiently await the arrival of one of the worlds great kettlebell athletes.  August this year we have the honor of learning from Valery Fedorenko of the WKC.  Valery is from the former USSR and is a champion kettlebell lifter, still holding records after more than 20 years. Valery no longer competes today but remains in impeccable condition using his training through kettlebells and now dedicates his life to bringing that information to teachers and athletes around the world promoting health, strength and longevity.  He was an early subject of Soviet Sports science and was the first athlete to bring his kettlebell expertise and methodologies to the public.

I was fortunate enough to have him make time for some insight into his training, his teachings and his ideologies surrounding kettlebell lifting.

This is what Valery had to share:

Valery you are the ambassador to kettlebell lifting, having come from such humble beginnings to global status, how did this journey all begin for you and who was it that influenced the growth of a world renown record holder?

Before I even came to the US I was drawn to kettlebell lifting at a young age, and I took up kettlebell training when I was 12 years old.  I cant say that it was one person in particular that influenced me, but I was greatly affected by attending a competition when I was still a boy.

Kettlebell lifting generally does not require huge muscles but huge reps, and it was this that shocked me when I first saw a skinny guy lift the bells in a competition and yet he still managed some 40-50 reps.  That was when I learnt you can be skinny and still surprise people.  I didn't want to worry about getting huge muscles,  I was more interested in the results, how many reps I could get with the 32kg bells.  Even now, I always like it when people have low expectations, and the athlete surprises people with their achievements.  Big guys such as body builders, with their impressive bodies, will always attract huge expectations from the public.  People expect results from such big muscles.  I was never a heavyweight, just 75kgs when I was competing.

Breaking and setting a new world record in the 80kgs men's jerk/snatch before you had reached adulthood shines brightly on your discipline and dedication as a young man, what advice could you give the youth of today to follow in your footsteps of pro-athleticism?

People are always asking me how old should a youth be when they start lifting.  You can start very young, as long as you use an appropriate bell weight.  Kettlebell lifting is about reps, just as the whole of everyday life is focused on reps.  Doesn't matter if bell is heavy or light, because everyone has different genetics, it only matters that you work to the best of your capacity.  I achieved MS (Master of Sport) at 17 years old, but some lifters maybe achieved it at 15 even.  If you go into the military at 18 you are already considered a man, and able to fight.  So I never saw 19-20 year old as so young for a world record, you're a man already.

This simple advice I always offer:  Don't be afraid, start early, get your results early.  I got WCMS (World class master of sport) at the age of 19.  If you start at 10-12 years old to train seriously, then as you turn 15-16 you will already be strong mentally, and as your body is growing, you will see results.  By 18-19 your body is almost full grown.  At 17 I weighted 69kg and was 183cm tall.  At 19 I wasn't any taller, just weighed 5kg heavier, my growing was all done.
The second piece of advice is to be stable.  When you are maybe 16-18 you are often more interested in clubs, dancing, drinking etc.  I would say get a focus, and enjoy your results rather than the nightclub.

Not only are you an inspiring kettlebell lifter but you also have remarkable results in the world of powerlifting, particularly the deadlift, considering your focus lies in girevoy sport.  How does the strength and conditioning of lifting kettlebells carry over to other aspects of lifting?

When I achieved deadlift of 200kg, and MS in powerlifting, also MS in squat 200kg, I didn't really train specifically for these, just in kettlebell swing, snatch and jerk.  To get stronger you just need to go for high speed with lighter kettlebll.  Kettlebell lifting is both strength and endurance, not just one.  This means that kettlebell lifters can work with weights well, but we can run marathons too, we can go for absolute strength or absolute endurance.  Typically our work capacity is much greater, compared to other types of lifting, and kettlebell lifters are more equipped for everyday life.

Kettlebell lifting offers plenty of different challenges, and the requirement to execute many reps.  Its not about 5 or 10 sets of 10, its 1 set of 100, that's the principle.  With any exercise, we try to handle kettlebells for 10, 20, or 30 minutes and aim for longer sets.

As a lifter, a teacher and an influential coach what do you believe it takes to be a great kettlebell instructor?

Over the last few years I have instructed many trainers to become coaches, but sadly not all of them became good instructors.  I teach them what matters, but not so many work at it, and study further.  A great coach needs to demonstrate a good level of lifting, they don't necessarily need to achieve a high level and rank, but excellent technique with a light bell.  They need the skill to be a good motivator, demonstrate good technique and deliver information and principles.

A bad instructor wants to listen to many different lifters then make own opinion, but without a strong background of learning and being corrected he will make mistakes, and will send his own students in a wrong direction, or indeed hold them back.  A good coach has first been an attentive student.

People around the world have turned to kettlebell lifting to improve their levels of athleticism, both professional athletes from all degrees of sport to the average grey man in the street looking for strength and conditioning.  What would you say makes them different from other resistance training methods?

Principles are what make us unique.  Not so many other methods of training look to do 100s or 1000s of reps.  This high number of reps makes for a different level of conditioning.  Other training methods ask the student to just do 20 reps, or maybe as few as 2-3 reps, but conditioned kettlebell lifter can do 10 000 reps.

Your work now lies in education for trainers and lifters around the world, will we be seeing you competing again at all in the future?

I think it is better If I keep coaching people because if I compete again, people get nothing, it would just be "look at me how good I am" and that has already been done, there is no need to repeat that, but also to compete there has to be a fire inside, it requires intense and difficult training, 12 times per week, its a serious deal, which would stop me coaching and pursuing my business with the WKC.  This wouldn't help my students.  I don't have so much fire inside now, no need to prove anything.  I'm not too old yet, and I reckon I could do it if I wanted to, but you have to want to do that.

Thank you for your insight into the world of kettlebell lifting, I look forward to learning from your expertise.

Valery Fedorenko will be hosting a workshop and a one day coaches certification at Flux Motion on the 11th August 2013.

Please get in touch with Sean Temple for details at 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Lord of the thighs

Ladies, lets take a minute to separate the bullshit from the actuality. Nine out of ten woman are unhappy with their physiques, more importantly we are dismal about the current state of our legs.

As a trainer, day in and day out, I am confronted with the challenge of "shape shifting the shanks" our limbs are either too big, too bulky, too shapeless or just too damn skinny.

The men will agree with me here, woman are hard to please.  Try tell a woman that in order to make a positive physical change, they need to at least fondle the idea of lifting weights.

The majority of us will admit that shapely, strong legs are the way forward, the quest for the enticing ITC (Inner thigh clearance) is ongoing with the female of the species.  To the woman who conflict this idea, to those who choose that shapeless, soft, asymmetrical, nebulous thighs are your calling then this blog is not for you.

The mutual element amongst South African woman is bulky legs, for some reason this seems to be a common factor.  This article is not about nutrition which will account for 80% of your change, this is about how to make the switch in your training.  Hefty legs are a result of numerous things, genetics, diet and estrogen retention.  These influences may be the cause, but that does not mean we cannot adjust the outcomes.

80% of the woman I have worked with lack leg development, where we need to acknowledge that lower body training can have a dramatic effect on our overall physiques.  Power is driven from the ground up.

Its time to step off the elliptical and test our bodies if we want to see a difference. Awaken the biggest muscle groups in your body, shape them, build them and embrace them.  Your progress will only lie in overcoming the hard times.  Hard times involve compound exercises, that recruit big muscles, in order to make big changes.

Running on the treadmill for 40 minutes and coupling that with a some step ups, high kicks and the formidable yes-no machine is going to get you that ITC like a glass of sand will get you hydrated.

Big exercises give big results.

Girls do not be intimidated by barbell squats, deadlifts and heavy lunges.  These bad boys of the gym room are what will get your legs screaming for a pair of hot pants. Including these big lifts into your training, and adding some high intensity conditioning in the form of hill sprints, stair sprints or sled pushing will not only build lean muscle but strip fat faster than you can say "lifting big makes me bulky"

In no way I am suggesting you load up that barbell and attack it with reckless abandon, start small, find yourself a legitimate coach and test your limits safely.  Deadlifting heavy kettlebells in a low rep range is a great start, as is with your squats, lunges and their assistance exercises, build up and advance with guidance. Your progress lies in improved capacity for intensity, your neural drive and nervous system adaptation and of course the increased workload.

Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity and get in touch with some of these great trainers who will get you ladies ravishing, statuesque, and lifting:

Cape Town:

David Cross of Evo Fitness
Kelly Dessington of Progressive Edge


Scott MacIntosh of The Yard Athletic


Yours truly, drop me a mail on
Terence Mitchell of Mitchell Strength on